Tag Archives: stew

A first attempt at Ethiopian food

As much as I dread winter, I tend to do my best cooking then, when the warmth of the oven is welcoming, and work keeps my fingers warm and occupied in the long months before spring arrives and frees me from the cold.  When a snowstorm hits, and all the town is back from scavenging like madmen for food to sustain them through the long hours before the streets are cleared, I tend to choose something warm and spicy and new to spend an afternoon making.  On such days, I don’t mind grinding a thousand spices by hand, or trying out something that just might work, if only I give it a try.

These afternoons are more fun when I don’t have everything I think I need.  When I’m missing a few ingredients, I’m forced to improvise, to think about what each ingredient does to the dish, and to figure out how to achieve the same effect with what I have at hand.  I get to have taste tests, and run around the kitchen, searching for some forgotten spice or obscure ingredient that all of a sudden seems essential to the finished dish.  These eureka moments are quick and satisfying, unlike science, and that, perhaps, is why such experiments are so frequent in our household.  James and I both come home after a long struggle with some obscure problem or another, and create new ones: ones we can discard or change as we see fit, with only the judgement of our tastebuds to concern ourselves with.

This meal is the outcome of one such experiment, and was my first attempt at cooking Ethiopian food at home.  An impending snowstorm cut my shopping trip short, so I made do with the ingredients I had at hand, and was mostly happy with the results.  My mock injera was a semi-disaster (though edible enough), so I won’t share the recipe here, but the chicken stew (doro wett) was spicy and complex, without being overwhelming, and the cabbage dish was sweet and subtle.  The pair complemented each other surprisingly well, balancing sweet and spicy, rich and wholesome.  Both are worth trying out, especially if you’re craving hearty winter fare like I am.  And yes, you can skip the berbere. It won’t be quite the same, but I think the stew and cabbage will be satisfying nonetheless.

Recipes after the jump.

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Filed under cabbage, chicken, chili, comfort, Ethiopian, lentils, main, onions, soup, squash, stew, Uncategorized

Irish eyes are smiling

Stew and Damper

That song is perhaps the cheesiest reminder that today is St. Patrick’s Day.  Flogging Molly or the Pogues are more my style, as my Pandora station might reveal.  But according to my red hair, freckles, and relatively large percentage of Irish blood, I suppose I should be in a celebratory mood, with the requisite tolerance for funny old songs and fake Irish brogues. With enough Guinness, anything’s possible, right?
Carrots and rosemary

Except it’s a Monday, I really don’t own any green clothing that I can recall, and James doesn’t drink beer. Besides, I was kind of in the mood for a relaxing evening at home, with a bit of work and some new cookbooks to peruse. So I did what I always do in those situations: I threw this and that in a pot, brought it to a simmer, and let the delicious smells waft throughout the house.

Rosemary

This meal ended up having an Australian twist, in the end. See, Irish, British, and Australian pub food is really not so different (as you might imagine). You throw some tough meat, beer, a few basic vegetables, some homemade stock in a pot. Add a little Vegemite, disappear to the corner pub for an hour or two, and voila — you have your Australian equivalent of Irish Guinness stew.  You make a basic, scone-like quick bread of flour, baking powder, water, milk, butter, and salt, and you have damper, which is serious bush tucker, designed to be made with basic essentials and thrust into an open fire beneath the startling expanse of the Milky Way.

Damper

It’s all comfort food, really. Yes, you can turn it into something gorgeous and inviting; the smell alone will draw guests to your door in two seconds flat. But it’s basic, and somehow, a part of both of our collective memories, as different as they are. Simmering stew and fresh baked bread, with only slight variations here or there. It’s the kind of meal that makes us quiet, in mutual approval, and brings us both a little sense of home.

st patrick's day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone, from the lab leprechaun!

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Filed under Australia, baking, beef, carrots, celery, main, milk, potatoes, quick bread, rosemary, soup, stew